Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hey Ma'am, You Really HAVE Come So Far - Thanks For The Reminder

Last night I went to a shiva house.  A girl I was friendly with from my "bad old days" (let's call her "A") lost her father.  Now while I am supposed to stay away from my old connections, I decided to see her (I'm sure my therapist would be properly appalled).

I dragged David with me cause I hate these things.  They are so awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you aren't really so close with the person.  Thus the morale support (from a grumbling "I'm missing BOTH the Knicks and the Rangers for this" David - what a man!  I really picked a winner!  Thank goodness both teams ended up winning, no harm done.)

Her parent's (mother's now, I guess) apartment was packed  - not so much because of the volume of people in it, but rather because it's really, really small.  They had sold their house and moved into this one bedroom when their kids all left the nest (or were thrown out, in some cases).

Mom, her older sister and her brother are all sitting in low chairs in one corner.  A is slightly off to the side, in a regular chair, all by her lonesome.  David and I go sit by her. 

I'm immediately struck by her eyes.  Not their beauty, rather their lack of focus.  "Jesus," I think, "she's lit up at her own shiva house.  That's totally fucked up".  David, by the way, is suddenly so interested in a painting on the wall to the side, that he can't seem to take his eyes off it.

After about thirty seconds of trying to figure out who I am, A lights up (like a joint).  "Cymbaline," she says.  I ask about her dad ("yea he's been sick awhile. I'm not really sure"), how her life is ("trying to get clean, but, like, it's not so easy you know?").  It's clear from the way the chairs are set up that I'd be wasting my time asking about her family, so I let that subject be.  And then there's nothing really much left to say.

We sit there awhile because I felt it would be rude to get up so quickly.  A few minutes later, another girl from my past walks in.  "B". 

B looks like she just finished spending the last 12 hours trolling for johns in the red light district.  She's dishevelled, inappropriately dressed and clearly drunk or high.  Unlike A, she recognizes me right away.  We chat for a few minutes.  I ask her how she's doing.  "You know," she says. 

Except I don't know.  I know it looks like she hasn't changed a bit in the last two years (except she dropped about 10 pounds she couldn't spare and she has a new set of lines under her eyes that I don't remember.  She's looking 42 even though she can't be more than 25).  We make some more small talk  (all about her  - neither A nor B ask me one question about myself despite how different I must look now) and I yank David out of his chair and we make for the door like the hounds of hell are on my tail.

In the car he asks the obvious question - "you used to hang around with those lunatics?"

I can't expect him to really understand.  He or or anyone else who never went through it.  I didn't have options.  I didn't have expanded social circles.  I had compatriots.  People fighting the same war against their parents/religion/society/the establishment that I was.  Our army is pretty exclusive.  You need to be a fucked up "lunatic" to join to begin with.

So yes, I did hang around with those "lunatics".  But seeing them last night made me realize.  I have been honorably discharged from that army.  I no longer fit in with that world.  I have an education, work experience (though I just quit my part time job) I have a life waiting for me.  I'm off the sauce, off the drugs.  I am grounded and anchored.  And while I still understand that army, they are no longer me.  And that's exactly why none of them had a question for me.  Or wondered how I am.  Or gave me any real information on themselves for that matter.  They know I'm not one of them anymore.  So I'm just another square who they can no longer relate to.

So this was, for the record, the best Shiva call ever.


  1. maybe going to this Shiva house WAS the right thing to do in the end. Congrats on being "unrelatable."

  2. Very mixed feelings - I'm sooo soooooo happy for you!!! At the same time, those girls make me very sad. I mean, how pathetic do you get, being high at your own father's shiva ?! :(

  3. COJ - Thanks. And I think in general paying respects to people who lost someone, and comforting their loved ones, is definately a good aspect of Judaism.

    Irina - Addiction is what it is. It's not like she can help it. What;'s "pathetic" are the circumstances that led up to it.

  4. Congratulations on your honorable discharge. I'm glad you've come so far. :)